“Not another meeting! Ugh!” This is often a familiar cry around the halls, cubicles, and meeting rooms in organizations of all sizes. I know that in my past as an insurance executive, I have uttered those very words!
The trouble today is that leaders and their teams are expecting to do more with less. Meetings often feel like time away from “getting things done”. So, we scurry to an obligatory meeting without a clear path to having a great meeting.
What if the culture in your team is that you hold meetings that matter? What if they matter because you create a meeting that has a purpose, a process, the people attending care and contribute, and a plan to bring it altogether so everyone wins!
While an Agenda is important, it is not necessarily the most important aspect of a successful meeting. It is merely an outline of the topics, attendees, time blocks, and topics of the meeting. Yes, this all sounds important, however, let’s look at some often overlooked aspects of creating a meeting.
This is very different from an Agenda. The purpose tells us WHY we are meeting. Is this meeting for motivation, informing a team of an important deadline, brainstorming, status, or an acknowledgement of an achievement? This small but important step provides an opportunity to notice if the people who are stakeholders in the purpose and outcome attend the meeting.
The Rules of Engagement
Isn’t it nice to be a part of a meeting where everyone is attentive and not merely attending? If you are one who does not like your team to be on the phone or texting during the meeting, then be clear that phones are to be silenced or are to be left back at the desks. Outline the rules of engagement at the beginning of the meeting (i.e. how to invite comment, when to ask questions, if laptops are allowed or do you want pen and paper only, if there are to be minutes; who will record and how will they be distributed and to whom, what to do if you want to participate but have a conflict, etc…). What meeting culture are you creating? What you want the experience to be?
Again, this may seem obvious, but we often forget to make this point clear whether before, during or at the conclusion of the meeting. Without this aspect clarified, the complaints arise; attendees get the “Not another meeting” syndrome.
For example, if among other things, one of the outcomes is to leave with clear meeting minutes, be sure to assign someone or create a culture of the team working that out on their own, just be sure to define what ”awesome minutes” looks like and that the entire team is aware of it.
It is common, especially for teams who work together closely or meet frequently, to invite the entire team without considering the purpose or considering other stakeholders outside the team to support the purpose of the meeting.
Imagine and ask yourself, “Who else cares about this purpose and/or this outcome?”
Ok, so you have your purpose, the outcome, identified the meeting attendees; it is time to consider the environment. This is not only where to hold the meeting, but also a chance to ask yourself, “What do I want the experience to be?”
Reflect and consider if you want this to be welcoming with snacks. Do you need flip charts and markers for the entire group for creativity? Do you need exercises or significant breaks to engage the group? This is an opportunity to consider, not only what you care about as the facilitator, but also what the attendees will care about and how that will serve the purpose and outcome.
The Meeting Culture
If, for this discussion, we define culture as the full range of a learned human behavior including beliefs, customs, inventions, language, technology and traditions in your organizations, then culture also applies to our meetings. With your thoughtful new process of designing meetings that matter, you will cause a positive, caring, productive meeting culture that has attendees clamoring to get to your meetings and participate.
The process of putting together your meeting may take a bit more forethought, the pay-off is creating meetings that matter.
original post for Align 4 Performance, Inc 2014